It was more than two years ago when the raucous but orderly punk rock sounds of Children 18:3 first graced our ears. One of 2008's most beloved debuts, their self-titled record was full of memorable, catchy hooks and meaty lyrics to compliment; to some, it was almost too good. With the time now arrived for David, Lee Marie, and Seth Hostetter's second outing on Tooth & Nail Records, there are high expectations that many have - and it's a good thing almost all of them are met.
Beginning with title intro track, the listener will instantly recognize that the trio's classic sound has made a return. With Seth's thumping of the drums and the unrestrained guitars and bass from David and Lee Marie opening up, we feel right at home with the almost-chanted lyrics accompanying them ("Crawl down, won't you come on down/Run down with me/Fly down, sugar, come on down/run down, the rain's coming"). Immediately following is "Cover Your Eyes," a track that could easily have appeared on the previous album. Short, but to the point, we aren't spared profound musings such as "But when a windmill blows it's not hooked up to anything except the breeze" or "So you're asking me to deceive the truth as before/But if it hasn't occurred to you yet, this could be the past, the past no more." "The Cruel One" is a little more cryptic lyrically with multiple One Hundred and One Dalmatians references, but along with exceptionally impressive drumming by Seth, it's a unique track in the set, to say the least. After the segue "Whispering" comes "Hey Driftwood (Tides);" with an emphasis on Lee Marie's vocals and an overall "epic feel" to the song's arrangement, it's easily an album highlight.
The listener is brought to the scene of a talent show on "Oh Bravo," sung almost entirely by Lee Marie. A small girl becomes discouraged by her performance paling in contrast to other contest participants, only to have her father console her ("Oh bravo, you're the best, you're my only one/Oh bravo, that will always be enough/Look at me, you're song was beautiful, beautiful/Even if nobody ever knows/Bravo"). Whether or not this was the intention, a metaphor for our Father's unfailing love and support for His children is quite clear. "Oh Honestly!" proves to be one of the most unique on the album; completely acoustic-driven, it's the chorus and second verse that especially drive the song home ("Listen to the wind blow over the branches/Listen to the waves crash on the shore/I don't have the big plan, just small glances/and every now and then I'm still unsure.../Would you try and grasp at an empty heaven/And bank your hopes on a rain that may not fall?"). "Wonder I," "Stronger," and "Jack 'O' Lantern Dreams" don't necessarily have anything particularly unique to emphasize, but they are nonetheless all good hard-rockin' tracks to complete the record. Closing with the epic song "Lost So Long," it's possibly the best song of Children 18:3's career both lyrically and musically ("Close your eyes, baby sleep, float across the gentle sea/Every dream turning grey holds the promises of rain coming").
The overarching theme of Rain's 'A Comin' is that of revival. The storm coming is something big headed our way, and this album is the siblings' warning to their listeners. Referenced in both the title track and the epic closer, there does feel like a bond holding the album together from both ends with support in between. This is indeed an area where the album is stronger than the previous record; while Children 18:3 was loaded with entertaining tracks full of life and excitement, it did have a "thrown-together" feel with next to nothing really linking its tracks together besides them all being on the same record. Here, all the tracks feel mostly intertwined and feel more mature and accomplished in their composition, automatically giving the album a better sense of cohesiveness than the last time around. This isn't to say that Rain's 'A Comin' could be called a concept album, but rather that the album feels more purposeful in its arrangement this time around.
Probably the most notable and obvious problem to mention about Rain's 'A Comin' is the length. With three non-song tracks in the mix (The title track and the somewhat unnecessary "Whispering" and "The Last Laugh"), it's all whittled down to only nine actual songs presented here. While this isn't a horribly negative aspect, it's hard to argue that Rain's 'A Comin' doesn't feel at least a little bit too short. Indeed, the 33 minutes comes and goes rather quickly, and adding at least one more track would have alleviated this issue quite easily. Still, the nine full tracks are all excellent ones, and no filler is to be found here.
It's safe to say that Rain's 'A Comin has secured the Minnesotan siblings as among the better current Tooth & Nail bands - they are reliably fun and accomplished musicians with a knack for clever and unapologetic songwriting. However, whether or not Rain's 'A Comin' is a better record than their self-titled debut is a tough call to make. While Children 18:3 excelled as more of an "album experience" from start to finish, it's the individual songs themselves on Rain's 'A Comin' that make the album the special one that it is, while still keeping a sense of completeness. It's a shorter record than their first venture, and maybe not as dramatic of a progression that could have been expected of the trio; but all of this aside, a sophomore slump was more than avoided - it's far and away one of the best albums of the year and unquestionably a must-have for any rock enthusiast. A storm has arrived, and any listener would be wise to chase it.
- PReview date: 5/13/10; Review date: 6/24/10; written by Roger Gelwicks of Jesusfreakhideout.com